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Billy Cotton & His Band

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Biography

b. 6 May 1899, Westminster, London, England, d. 25 March 1969, London, England. The youngest of 10 children, Cotton sang solo treble in the choir of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. In 1914 he joined the army as a bugler-drummer and served in the Dardanelles Campaign in Gallipoli before returning to the UK and spending the rest of World War I in the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he drove London buses, played for Brentford Football Club as an amateur (and later, for the then Athenian league club Wimbledon), and raced motorcycles and cars. In the early 20s he played drums for various groups, including the Laurie Johnson Band at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and then formed his own London Savannah Band. Cotton gave up drumming to front the band in 1925 when Clem Bernard joined the organization as pianist/arranger and stayed for over 40 years as the musical brain behind the Cotton band. Initially they played the big dancehalls, including the Astoria in London’s Charing Cross Road, and top nightclubs such as Ciro’s, in both London and Paris. During the 30s they played in cine-variety before becoming a theatre showband and introducing broad visual humour and saucy songs. Their records reflected the change with such songs as ‘Bessie Couldn’t Help It’, ‘She Was Only Somebody’s Daughter’ and ‘They All Start Whistling At Mary’, besides the ‘hotter’ numbers, ‘The New Tiger Rag’, ‘Truckin’’ and ‘Shine’, which featured Nat Gonella, Teddy Foster and the American trombonist and skilful tap-dancer Ellis Jackson. Sixteen examples of Cotton’s 30s style can be found on The Golden Age Of Billy Cotton. During World War II, Cotton toured France with ENSA and was put in charge of Air Training Corps entertainment, besides touring the music halls. After the war he boosted his declining variety theatre bookings with Wakey Wakey!!, a Sunday lunchtime BBC radio programme that became a national institution and ran for over 20 years. The material was much the same as ever, including ‘Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, What A Referee’, ‘Oh, Nicholas, Don’t Be So Ridiculous’, ‘Forty Fousand Fevvers On A Frush’, ‘The Dambusters March’, ‘The Sunshine Of Your Smile’, ‘Fall In And Follow Me’, ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner’, all heralded by his theme, ‘Somebody Stole My Gal’. These tunes were played and sung by regulars Doreen Stevens, Johnny Johnson, Rita Williams and the Highlights, Kathy Kay (b. 20 November 1918, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, d. 8 March 2005, Largs, Scotland), trumpeter Grisha Farfel and vocalist/general all-rounder Alan Breeze (b. 9 October 1909, London, England, d. 15 January 1980, England), ever-present with Cotton since 1932. During the 50s Cotton had chart hits with ‘In A Golden Coach’ (to celebrate the 1953 Coronation), ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’, ‘Friends And Neighbours’ and ‘Puttin’ On The Style’. In 1957, following an unsatisfactory flirtation with commercial television, The Billy Cotton Band Show came to BBC Television. At 60 years of age and substantially built, Cotton danced with the Silhouettes, a line of dancing girls, sang with and insulted his favourite guest stars, Russ Conway, Alma Cogan and Max Bygraves, conducted the band, and joined in throwing cotton-wool balls into the audience during one of their favourite numbers, ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’. By now he was one of the most popular figures in UK light entertainment. Some of the shows were produced by Cotton’s son, Bill Jnr., who later became Controller of BBC Television. In 1962, Cotton Snr. was voted ‘Showbusiness Personality Of The Year’. He also suffered a stroke, which slowed him down, although he did work again during the 60s until his untimely death while watching a boxing match at Wembley in March 1969. He was buried at St. Margaret’s Church where he had once been a choirboy.
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   The French Can-Can Polka
  3.   I Like Banana (Because They Have No Bones)
  4.   Hang on to the Bell, Nellie
  5.   Leave the Pretty Girls Alone
  6.   I Love the Sunshine of Your Smile
  7.   After You've Gone
  8.   Aurora
  9.   Black Bottom featuring Billy Cotton
  10.   I've Gone and Lost My Little Yo-Yo
  11.   Nobody's Sweetheart by Alan Breeze
  12.   Free
  13.   Someone Else I'd Like to Be
  14.   Ev'ry Single Little Tingle Of My Heart
  15.   The Night the Floor Fell In
  16.   Lazy Bones
  17.   Where Did the Chicken Lay the Eggie?
  18.   When You're at Home with the Ones You Love
  19.   The Melody Maker
  20.   Oh! What a Beautiful Morning / Daisy Bell featuring Alan Breeze
  21.   I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (1949)
  22.   I'm Going to Get Lit Up (When the Lights Go Up in London)
  23.   I've Got Sixpence
  24.   Bon Voyage, Cherie
  25.   Yes-Yes
  26.   This Is the Army, Mr. Jones
  27.   Music, Maestro, Please by Alan Breeze
  28.   Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive
  29.   Rehearsing a Lullaby by Chips Chippendall
  30.   Somebody Cares About You
  31.   Without That Certain Thing
  32.   Young and Healthy / You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me / Shuffle off to Buffalo / Forty-Second Street
  33.   Robin Hood
  34.   I've Had My Moments
  35.   It Looks Like Love
  36.   I Can't Dance (I Got Ants In My Pants)
  37.   The Woodpecker Song
  38.   Sunny Skies
  39.   Wings Over the Navy by Alan Breeze
  40.   She Was Only Somebody's Daughter
  41.   Keep a Twinkle in Your Eye by Alan Breeze
  42.   Shine
  43.   Never Been There Before
  44.   Hearts of Stone
  45.   I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus featuring Billy Cotton
  46.   The King Is Still in London
  47.   The Flying Saucer
  48.   Can I Canoe You up the River?
  49.   When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney
  50.   Whatever Will Be, Will Be
  51.   Wheezy Anna's Wedding Day featuring Alan Breeze
  52.   Heat Wave by Alan Breeze
  53.   Louisiana Hayride
  54.   Through the Courtesy of Love by Alan Breeze
  55.   Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's Forty
  56.   Rehearsing S Lullaby
  57.   Poor Robinson Crusoe
  58.   The Man Who Comes Around by Alan Breeze
  59.   Skirts by Sam Browne
  60.   Madam Ah! La Marquise Ah!
  61.   The Moon Was Yellow
  62.   We Must All Stick Together
  63.   Dream featuring Billy Cotton
  64.   Yeah Man
  65.   Doin' the New Low Down by Ellis Jackson
  66.   Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me / Woody Woodpecker featuring Alan Breeze
  67.   Nightfall
  68.   Sailor, Who Are You Dreaming Of Tonight?
  69.   Happy Feet
  70.   Doin' The Uptown Lodown
  71.   Let's Get Friendly
  72.   Best Wishes by Sam Browne
  73.   A Street in Old Seville
  74.   Sophisicated Lady
  75.   The Billy Cotton Band Show: Lulu Had A Baby
  76.   Parkin' In The Moonlight
  77.   Why Shouldn't I?
  78.   I'm Going To Get Lit Up by Alan Breeze
  79.   Give Me Your Affection, Honey
  80.   Ever So Slightly Late!
  81.   Who's Sorry Now featuring Billy Cotton
  82.   I'm Gonna Wash My Hands of You
  83.   La Cucaracha by Alan Breeze
  84.   Ta-Ra-ta-Boom-De-Ay / Ragtime Cowboy Joe / Row, Row, Row
  85.   The Things I Love
  86.   Smile, Darn Ya, Smile
  87.   You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)
  88.   The Love Bug Will Bite You by Jack Doyle
  89.   I've Got a Sixpence
  90.   I'm Just Wild About Harry
  91.   Oh Little Fish
  92.   Say It Isn't So
  93.   Jeepers Creepers / Beer Barrel Polka (Roll out the Barrel) featuring Alan Breeze
  94.   Why Did She Fall For The Leader Of The Band?
  95.   Coffee in the Morning
  96.   Crazy Weather
  97.   Bring out the Little Brown Jug
  98.   Hand in Hand
  99.   It Ain't The Cough That Carries You Off
  100.   Around the World in Eighty Days / True Love featuring Alan Breeze
  101.   Big Head
  102.   Night Owl
  103.   Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You
  104.   Let's Face the Music and Dance
  105.   Sweetheart
  106.   Hold Me
  107.   What'd Ja Do To Me?
  108.   Just Another Dream Of You
  109.   Somebody Stole My Gal
  110.   Why Am I Blue?
  111.   Sleepy Time Down South
  112.   Were You Sincere?
  113.   Memories Of You
  114.   You're Lucky To Me
  115.   You Brought A New King Of Love To Me
  116.   From Monday On
  117.   Dardanella
  118.   A-Hunting We Will Go
  119.   Stick It on the Wall, Mrs Riley
  120.   Crazy Mixed-up Song
  121.   The Ring Fell Under the Sofa
  122.   I Only Saw Him Once
  123.   The Dam Busters
  124.   Best Wishes
  125.   It's Only a Paper Moon
  126.   Fancy Our Meeting / So Green / Ooo-La-La
  127.   Don't Worry 'Bout Me
  128.   Turn Your Money in Your Pocket
  129.   Doin' the New Low Down
  130.   The Love Bug Will Bite You
  131.   You'll Be Happy, Little Sweetheart, In the Spring featuring Alan Breeze
  132.   Mammy Bong by Alan Breeze
  133.   Dere's Jazz in Dem Dere Horns by Alan Breeze
  134.   In A Golden Coach (There's A Heart Of Gold)
  135.   Tea for Two featuring Billy Cotton
  136.   I've Got Sixpence by Alan Breeze
  137.   Kitchen Rag
  138.   Crying for the Carolines
  139.   Brazil
  140.   The Man With the Mandolin
  141.   Dere's Jazz in Dem Dere Horns
  142.   Truckin'